A UK judge has criticised Facebook and other social media sites as a “tool for evil” following the death of an innocent mother after she was trolled online over false allegations she tried to kill a baby.
Jayne Pearce, 23, suffered “vitriol” at the hands of an online “pitchfork mob” after two mothers hacked into her Facebook page and alleged she had tried to smother one of their children, the Telegraph reported.
As as result Pearce was locked up for three months before she was cleared of wrongdoing. The two women, Leonie Hampson-Ogden, 24, and Shauna Stanway, 21, were later arrested. Two days before the women were due in court, Pearce was found dead in her flat in Royton, Oldham, Greater Manchester after ingesting a fatal combination of vodka, cocaine and the anti-depressant fluoxetine, the paper said.
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Judge Angela Nield condemned the “artillery” of social media as she jailed the two women for 10 months each after they pleaded guilty to perverting justice. Both women claim they had been severely trolled since the tragedy. “Social media has a great deal to answer for. It does do a great deal of good for bringing together friends who have not met each other for many years – but sadly as is often the case now, people find it to be a tool for evil, a tool for wrong and a tool for criticising each other,” judge Nield said in her ruling.
“In this case it was a tool to bring down upon the head of an innocent person the wrath of social media by way of public opinion. Your victim was released – but only from custody. “She was not released from the consequences of what had happened to her. She became a changed person. Her mother and sister noted a significant change in her and the tragedy of this case was yet to come.
“Jayne Pearce was only 23 and her life was cut short and in her last year she was dogged by the allegations that she harmed a child and being labelled as such. The tragedy in this case is that whatever this court decides to do it will not bring her back in their lives nor can it compensate what they have lost,” the judge said.
“The message of deterrence has to be a strong one. Social media is a process which is easily abused by users. The weapon of choice was Facebook and it was a weapon whose artillery was eventually turned on you. It was first used on Jayne Pearce who had done nothing wrong, but its heavy weaponry was then turned on those who had first fired it.” she added